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'No Congress surprise to challenge Modi'

Last updated on: May 10, 2019 11:43 IST

'If you compare Rahul with Modi, then Modi seems larger.'
'The campaign has been built to show that Rahul is not mature enough to lead the nation.'

Congress national President Rahul Gandhi and his sister Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra met each other by chance at Kanpur airport, April 27. 

IMAGE: Congress national President Rahul Gandhi and his sister Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra met each other by chance at Kanpur airport, April 27.

Nine more days and campaigning for the Greatest Show on Democracy will be over. With polling in just 79 of the 543 seats remaining, most of the election is behind us.

What has been the course of this campaign?

How is this election different from the past and what trends does it reveal for the final result?

Will the BJP hold onto UP and lose Delhi?

Why has the 2019 campaign been very dry?

"This election is being contested on Modi's personality," Rahul Verma, psephologist and co-author of Ideology & Identity -- The Changing Party Systems of India, tells Rediff.com's Archana Masih.

2019 election is a very normal election

The 2019 election is a very normal election. There has been no serious message of hope, either from the incumbent or the Opposition.

If you look at the 2014 campaign, you could feel the campaign in January 2014.

If you go out, it does not seem like we are having an election. It has a lot to do with tightening of Election Commission norms, but also because on the ground there is no new fervour to mobilise focus.

Most of the election seems to be fought in TV studios, social media and newspaper columns. The campaign is actually very dry.

Modi most popular figure for BJP and Opposition

In 2019, Modi remains the most popular leader and central figure for the campaign for the BJP and the Opposition. This election is being contested on Modi's personality.

The personal appeal of all Opposition leaders except Rahul -- Mamta, Mayawati, Akhilesh -- is limited by state boundaries.

If you compare Rahul with Modi, then Modi seems larger. The campaign has been built to show that Rahul is not mature enough to lead the nation. On the ground, the cap does not fit (on Rahul) yet.

 

Decline in national security sentiment

A drastic change has happened in the last one month. There has been a decline in national security sentiment that could have been seen around March 15. It has subsided, but not to the extent that it has completely gone away.

No change in turnout

The overall turnout has remained the same, maybe 1% to 2% upward. On participation level, it seems more or less a very similar election.

Congress unable to bring up any surprise to challenge Modi

The Congress could not manage more alliances and bring more dynamism to their campaign. They have not been able to bring up any surprise to challenge Modi.

Modi versus Priyanka could have been an interesting contest in Varanasi, even if Priyanka had lost. Even on that front, the Congress messed it up.

New dynamism in BJP campaign since the 3rd phase

It was being speculated that the BJP may not be doing great, but around the 3rd phase Modi lifted the campaign up with the road show in Varanasi.

There is new dynamism in the BJP campaign since the 3rd phase.

Most seats controlled by BJP going to polls in 5, 6, 7 phase; BJP pulling out all stops to hold onto them

BJP did not have much at stake in the first two phases. Most seats controlled by the BJP are polling in the 5th, 6th, 7th phases.

Most of their seats are in the west and north India and they are pulling out all stops.

BJP will make inroads in Bengal and Odisha

BJP will make inroads in Bengal and Odisha. It would certainly make gains in terms of votes, but converting that into seats would be a challenge. The BJP will become the principal Opposition party in West Bengal and Odisha.

The East and North East will completely change after 2019. The BJP that did not exist in the East pre 2014 will become a large party in that part of the country.

BJP won't make much headway in Punjab, may hold their base in Rajasthan

The BJP's goal would be to retain as many seats that they can. They won't be able to make much headway in Punjab.

In Madhya Pradesh they had 26/29 seats, in Rajasthan 25/25 -- given their loss in the assembly election in 2018, they would like to hold onto what they had in 2014.

News reports suggest say they might be able to hold on to their base in Rajasthan. Modi is extremely popular and the vote in 2018 was actually against Vasundhara Raje.

Election in 3, 4 seats in Delhi is wide open

In MP, many are trying to figure out why they fielded Sadhvi Pragya -- whether it was a sign of desperation or if it was a smart move to keep the cadre energised.

MP would be a crucial state.

In Delhi, if AAP-Congress had aligned, the BJP would have lost all 7 seats. Even now, the BJP may have an upper hand, but the election in 3, 4 seats in Delhi is wide open.

BJP may retain half its seats in UP

In UP, in spite of the SP-BSP alliance, the BJP may be able to retain at least half of its seats in UP. May even have a slight edge over the alliance in the final tally.

There could be a miscoordination effect in eastern rather than western UP between the SP and BSP.

Communities that vote for the SP-BSP have a larger concentration in the western part and Bundelkhand.

UP is crucial for the BJP if it has to be within striking distance of a majority.

Archana Masih